Monday, March 21, 2011

Homegrown 90 Minute IPA

Last spring I decided I was going to plant some hop rhizomes in the back yard and let them climb and wrap around my deck awning. I selected the 2 varieties that I use most in brewing which at the time was Hallertau and Cascade. Well, I quickly learned that the noble Hallertau is in fact not so noble in it's first season in southern Michigan. It grew a mere 4 feet tall and produced one hop cone! Now, my Cascades (yes I capitalize hop varieties) on the other hand... wow, they grew just over 17 feet long and produced hundreds, maybe even in the low thousands of cones. I thought I wasn't going to have a decent harvest first year but dry weight ended up being just under 6oz, plenty for a 5 gallon IPA.

I decided on a recipe that I felt would work really well for a 90 minute using Maris Otter as my base malt to give it that perfect mouthfeel. My entire grain bill looked something like this:

10lbs Maris Otter
2lbs Munich Malt
1lbs Cara-Pils

I mashed for 60 minutes at 155 and tossed 1oz of hops in with the mash. I heard of good results doing this so I figured I'd try it for myself. I tasted the first runnings and there was a definite hoppy quality to the wort that was noticeable.
After I hopped the mash I felt I should just keep going with this and hop every step of the way, so I tossed about 1/2oz into the sparge water as I was bringing it up to temp. It ended up sitting at 168 for 30 minutes which infused even more hop goodness into the process.

You can see me collecting the first runnings for vorlauf, already running pretty clear. This sweet, sweet beer nectar tasted so good infused with my homegrown cascades, I knew I wanted to do something more with this batch, something to set it apart from other IPA's I've brewed in the past. I got an idea from a likely place.
I started thinking about DogFishHead 90 Minute IPA and how they are continuously hopped. I don't have any way to continuously hop except of course to stand there and add them myself by hand. Well, this is exactly what I did. I sat there with a stop watch and for 90 minutes threw one hop cone into the brew kettle every 30 seconds. It was cold outside, so I had to sit in the brew steam to stay warm for the duration of the boil, but it smelled great so I didn't mind. One hop at a time.. lol. I am really looking forward to enjoying one of these this spring while sitting out back and watching the new cascade vines turning into powerhouses of alpha acids!
After the boil I brought it in and ran the wort chiller through it for about 15 minutes to get down to 70ish, and decided to pitch even more hops at this stage, that eventually did make their way into the primary. I ended up on the low side of my target gravity but it shouldn't matter too much, we're only talking like 1/2% ABV.
So this is in fact a single hop beer, but cascades are so complex I feel like it's going to work out just fine. For yeast I went with a yeast cake preserved from a recent batch of my house pale ale of Wyeast 1056 American Ale. The airlock is cranking away and the smell coming from it smells of pure hop oils. I'll give this one about 10 days in the primary and move to secondary to get it off the old hops and yeast cake, and also to dry hop 5 days with the remaining 1oz (approx) of my first year homegrown cascades.

Making your own beer is great, having knowledge of the different malts and hops to design your own beers is better, and growing your own ingredients on top of that... absolutely beautiful.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Carrot Beer: Disgusting.

A picture is worth 1000 words. Ha! Yeah so the carrot beer was a complete failure. Rarely do I actually pour booze down the drain, but that's really the only place fit for a disaster such as this. I bet someone attempted carrot beer before, and there's a reason it never caught on, it taste terrible. Beery, yeasty, dry carrot flavor, hot with fresh alcohol. Ugh.. I've gotta stop here, it's making me sick to relive.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Releasing the Légion!

Well Today has been 14 days in primary for my legendary (in my own mind at least) Je Suis Légion Soured Saison. I had to pitch my Belgian sour mix before there wasn't anything left in solution for the brett to work on, so today was the day. I went and got my 5 gallon glass carboy and filled it with iodophor solution, and the ale pail full of this sweet nectar, and while enjoying a glass of my house pale ale prepared everything for the big inoculation. I cracked open the ale pail and took a deep smell of the beer. Wow. It smelled tart, a little horsey, a hint of caramel baked bread. Looking down into the fermentor it looked pretty dark, but I know from experience that this view is deceiving. Once I started racking and saw the color in the racking cane I was really impressed. Beer in a glass is generally about 25% darker than what you see in a racking cane, but look at how straw yellow I was able to get this. That is the exact color I was going for at about 6 SRM.
I can't wait to see what this is going to look like in a glass. In the image above you see my glass of House Pale on the right. Beer Smith predicted 7 SRM on that and it looks more like a 10-12 to me, so I hope this one stays this brightness and clarity in order to keep true to the design.
I had taken 2 vials of my White Labs Belgian Sour Mix out of the fridge earlier in
the day and left them out to warm up. When I cracked these things open, omg... the smell can ONLY be described as the dirtiest of diapers mixed with rotten feet. They were so effervescent that the first one got on my hand, ugh, and the other took over 5 minutes to finally open all the way without a blowout.
I poured them both into the carboy with the Saison and swirled it around slightly as to not oxidize my beer. I wanted to gradually bring this thing up to 95 degrees over the next few days to really give the bugs a boost, and not having any fancy equipment capable of doing this I figured I would wrap the carboy in a flannel jacket, sit it next to a heat vent, every day covering more of the vent with the jacket to trap the heat under there. The heat from this vent comes out at 115F, I should be able to get it up near 95F with the jacket completely covering the vent (I hope). So that's where we're at with this one, over the next week or 2 I'll be looking for new airlock activity and development of a pellicle on the surface. When I see these signs I'll post again to document timeline of development. Stay tuned, this one is going to be great!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Apple Cyser + Brettanomyces and Malolactic Bacteria

Pellicle [ˈpɛlɪkəl] n - a growth on the surface of a liquid culture.

You may have thought initially that I was showing you an image of some distant planet, why would I do that? Planets don;t have anything to do with brewing. What you are looking at is a view down the neck of a carboy at a thin start to a layer of pellicle on a cyser I brewed last Halloween.
It's kind of a tradition now that every Halloween I whip up a German Apfelwein or some variation of apple wine. This year I went a little differently in that I boiled 5 gallons of apple juice with 1lb of crystal 20L and 10lbs of honey. I used a safale us-05 yeast and it has been done fermenting for several months and is crystal clear, I could have bottled it, but I didn't. One night I was sitting here drinking a Bretted beer and looked at the thick brett dregs at the bottom of the bottle and decided to crack that carboy of cyser and pour it right in there. That's exactly what I did, plus 1lb dextrose to kickstart fermentation #2. I then thought of something else I could do to make this stuff very unique, I added a vial of malolactic bacteria. Malolatic fermentation converts the tart malic acid to the soft buttery flavored lactic acid. So I've got a tart apple cyser, that I'm souring a bit with brett, and then taking the tartness away and replacing it with a softer mouthfeel. Now this thing has to set many, many more months (at least 6) to allow malolactic conversion and the brettanomyces to make its presence known. Looking forward to this one... Stay tuned.

Oh Carrots! quick update

So after a week of my basement smelling like sulfur it would appear that fermentation is nearly complete in both the wine and the beer. For awhile there I was getting what looked like a nonstop flow of co2 coming from the wine carboy, picture an airstone in there. I was constantly having to add more fluid to the airlock, it was nuts. The beer didn't get like that at all, at best I was getting a bubble every 10 seconds.
You can see the carrot wine is layered up pretty good right now, yeast starting to settle to the bottom, murky must/wine in the middle, and a cake of carrot pulp and raisins still floating at the top, but starting to settle.

Airlock activity has ceased in both fermentors and now I'll just let them settle. The yeast will continue to consume lingering sugars until they produce enough alcohol that it finally overwhelms them and they die off. I am so anxious to taste this stuff, as soon as it clears up enough to rack off the lees I am going to try it. I can't imagine what carrot juice would taste like completely dry and hot with fresh alcohol, but I intend on finding out very shortly. I haven't even tasted the beer yet but I know I'm not going to like it. In retrospect I realized I should have done it very differently and am planning on doing another batch with the new idea. I mean who knows, this one could be ok I just feel like I should mash some 2-row and crystal 20L, add carrot juice to bring my gravity up to about 1.058, and proceed with a 60min boil as usual. There was no boil with this batch, no grains, nothing for body, nothing in the process worth calling it a beer other than it's hopped and fermented with beer yeast. We shall see.... we shall see indeed.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

To the Extreme - Je suis Légion

The brew crew and I get together once a month and drink beer, eat grilled meat, talk about women, play cards, and last but never least, brew beer. Well this past get together was at my house and I was originally considering doing an all-grain Black IPA, perhaps even an Imperial Black IPA. When working out my grain bill for the batch I was noticing it's pretty straightforward, I don't like straightforward. I ended up scraping the idea and starting over with something a bit more unusual, just a tad bit epic. I decided to build a French Saison, no spices just straight grain, and then as soon as primary fermentation was complete on the Saison, pitching a legion of Belgian resident nasties to sour this thing to the extreme.

I came up with this:

10 lbs Pilsner (2 Row) Belgian
2 lbs Munich Malt
2 lbs Wheat Malt, Belgian
4.0 oz Acid Malt
1 lb Candi Sugar, Clear
1.00 oz Strisslespalt [4.00%] (60 min)
8.00 oz Malto-Dextrine (Primary 2.0 weeks)
1 Pkgs French Saison (Wyeast Labs #3711)
1 Pkgs Belgian Sour Mix (White Labs #WLP655) [Add to Secondary]

So basically I am just brewing a French barnyard ale, which will have a bit of funk to it on
it's own, and then after primary fermentation is complete, I will add a half pound malto-dextrine and pitch the Sour Mix. The Sour Mix consists of three bugs I'm interested in, Brettanomyces and the bacterial strains Lactobacillus and Pediococcus. These are the nasty critters that turn a Belgian Ale into a sour lambic style. Epic.

Je Suis Légion, I Am Legion in French. French for the style of beer, a saison, legion for the legion of yeast, bacteria, and other nasty critters that are going to corrupt this beers soul and blacken its heart, taking it from a young and innocent little pale ale, to a gorgeous french barnyard whore. (How do you like that?)
As if that wasn't enough I then took this recipe to the next level and decided to restart yet another, third fermentation by adding fruit to the secondary 4 weeks into it, fruit type TBD, but I'm leaning heavily toward cherry. I picture in my mind a beer that is so crisp, so pale, so relentlessly sour, so heavily scented of barnyard funk, sweet pears, citrus, and whatever fruit I add, as to be legendary.

Yes, if December 2012 in fact does bring about the apocalypse, I take solace in the fact that I will spend my last summer on earth next year drinking the greatest beer I could have ever produced... quite possibly the best beer on earth. This one is worth following to the end. I'm planning on bottling this in caged and corked champagne bottles with an additional blast of Brettanomyces for bottle conditioning. That will be 4 fermentation stages. Completely epic.

Oh Carrots! cont...

So it took roughly 40 hours for either one of these things to show any signs of fermentation. What was kind of interesting is that they both have different gravity, different ingredients, and different yeast, yet they both started to show signs within about 1 hour of each other. The Killer K1 yeast has pushed up all of the trub to the top of the carboy to form a giant cake of raisins and carrot pulp that looks like some botched attempt at a carrot cake.

The airlock is bubbling away and there is a slight carroty/sulphury smell. The carrot beer is actually doing what you may expect. The Danstar Munich is treating the carrot juice the same as sweet grain wort and has formed a nasty thick brown krausen and smells a bit like brownies mixed with ammonia.

Now I just sit and wait about a month or however long it takes the trub to settle in the beer and it to clear up. I've never added isinglass to a beer before but this one may be a candidate, we shall see. The wine will have to sit well over 9 months, more likely 15-16 months to clear up enough for bottling. Unless something drastic happens, this should be the last update on the carrot experiment until the beer is ready to bottle, at which point I will taste, and describe. I know carrot wine has been done before after a google search, but beer? Well, it's been talked about, but this may be a first. It may be the next big thing, who knows. Check back in the future to find out the results. Thanks for checking it out!

Oh Carrots!

So the other day I got the idea to buy a massive quantity of carrots, run them through the juicer, and ferment it out in a couple of different ways to observe the results.
I went out and got 30lbs of carrots.. LOL! Yeah, 30lbs of carrots through the juicer 2 or 3 at a time.
I ended up getting 2.75 gallons of juice from the carrots. I strained half of what I added to the carboy to reduce the trub. Often I juice carrots to just drink and not ferment, and there is A LOT of pulp you can see separate if it sits long enough
. I wanted to filter some of that out to start so 2 3/4 gallons of juice with half the particulates was pretty sweet.

It took over an hour to push all these things through the juicer, and while I was doing it I was thinking up some ideas for fermentation. I decided I'd do a carrot wine, which I'm reasonably sure will be delicious, and a carrot beer, which I am completely unsure about. I figured I'd do 4 gallons of wine and 1 gallon of beer, seeing as how the wine is kind of a certain success
and the beer could be a miserable failure.

After adding water my gravity was way low, like 1.030 low. I added dextrose til I hit 1.060 and pulled off a gallon for beer, and then added more dextrose to the 4 gallon batch to hit 1.090 for the wine. For the wine I figured I'd add 1lb of chopped up raisins, 1/4 cup lemon juice, campden tablets, wait 24 hours and pitch Lalvin k1-v1116. I call K1 "Killer K", this stuff is brutal in its strength and resilience and can do just about anything, which is why I chose it for this carrot batch. For the beer I added 1/4oz French Strisslespalt hops, 2oz Malto-Dextrine, and pitched Danstar Munich. I was hoping for some fruity phenols to compliment the carrot flavor.
Update to come after campden dissipates and I pitch yeasts. I'm anxious to see how these things look and smell a few days into a good fermentation. I imagine the krausen on the carrot beer would be pretty hefty, especially considering I'm using a wheat yeast. Stay tuned...